Friday, 8 May 2015

There are different ways to enter permanent care

At lunch at the nursing home yesterday I was sitting with mum and an elderly woman I have had lunch with previously, I'll call her N. As usual we were talking, and then a staffer I recognised from earlier visits to the nursing home came over and asked me about the Kindle that was sitting on my place at the table. I told her about it briefly. She went away soon enough but after a few minutes she came back bringing with her an elderly woman - let's call her S - who she said had just entered the facility as a permanent resident. S sat down and we introduced ourselves and then we talked as we waited for lunch to arrive. (The staff bring your lunch to the table at around 12.30pm every day, though people usually start congregating in the dining room at about midday.)

It turned out that S had admitted herself to the nursing home. She had been living alone in a split-level unit in a nearby suburb since her husband had died a decade or so previously. The unit had stairs, which made it physically difficult to get around. S had consulted with her daughters about entering care but the final decision to go into permanent care was hers alone. She is 91 years old and does not have dementia, so her memory is very good (if not actually absolutely perfect). She is in control of her life and she made the decision to enter permanent care willingly.

By contrast, N had not made the decision herself to go into permanent care. Her daughter - who has power of attorney over her affairs - had made that decision for her and N will always make a point of telling me - if we chance to sit at the same table for lunch on any given day - that she doesn't know why her daughter made that decision. N thinks that she is fine. Today, I tried to impress on N that it's not always easy for families to decide to place an elderly parent in permanent care. I told her about my own struggle - from March last year until December - over the question of whether to put mum into permanent care or not.

I made a movie of mum talking using the Periscope app last week during which we talk about her way of thinking about the nursing home, and it turns out that she's quite happy with the current arrangement. Since mum has dementia you can be sure she's not dissembling and that this is actually what she thinks in truth. Which is a relief to me, since I still sometimes look at my role in mum's entering permanent care with a critical eye. I know it's an issue that has long since been decided, and that there's no point in worrying about it any more, but that's just the way I am.

I suppose that I will again at some point have lunch with S and N, either singly or together. It's impossible to say what will happen in life. Of course, I would only be having lunch at the nursing home if mum continues to reside there, and given that she has a serious blood disease there's no guarantee that she will see the end of the month, let along the end of the year. We'll just have to see. For the moment, I will continue to drive up to the nursing home every two or three days. It is my habit when I go there to order lunch by about 10am so that I can eat lunch and then leave before mum has her nap in the afternoon. (Usually she gets quite tired after lunch.) So I get back in the car by about 1.15pm and am usually home by about 2pm.

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